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My father was in the backyard working with the bricks and concrete blocks and weathered 2 by 4's and big, dirty pipes-the essentials of his livelihood. Linda was out in the carport; she looked more domesticated than refined. When I was younger, I went on a lot of trips with her. She used to tell people she was "my mother." I always made it clear: She was MY STEP-MOTHER. But unlike mama, she was assertive; She walked out on him. An air of tension lingered as I stood among my blood kin. We were family, but strangers, Relative, yet distant. My father had a typewriter for me. Judging by the description on the phone the night before, It appeared to me a dinosaur; I fancy the hightech Macs. Dad was beaming with enthusiasm as he prepared to show it off; The rope was around my neck, tightening. When I was twenty, I stood against him and mentally castrated him, But this day I was scared of him. As a kid, he was the Zen Master; he would carry me on his back and we'd conquer the world. Out of the night came Graelyn, my half-brother; He wasn't a squirt anymore-but a football player. As we three stood, we made an attempt at male bonding, But the words became murmurs lost to the rain. When I was seventeen, a bookworm and a loner, I liked Hemingway more than party hopping, Shakespeare more than fucking. When Daddy asked, "Have you got any pussy yet?"

I blushed crimson (an incredible feat for a black man). When I told him I was still a virgin, he wanted to disown me. He couldn't understand I was a romantic. I liked Coltrane and Langston, I never did the nasty dunk Even then I had doubts about God and Jesus.

Whenever someone who knew my father saw me, they'd always called me "Sonny" 'Cause they said I favored him. I had the Flat Top, the abrasive, arrogant disposition, the round butt high as a mountain, the big, fine legs. As I made my way back to the living room, my eyes scoped out familiar pictures, surveying them. Tamiko, my half-sister probably went to college; She must be glad to be free of his wrath. Linda was sitting at the table, making out the lesson plans, Oblivious to my presence, So I went to Graelyn's room. I noticed the double-barreled Winchester hanging on the wall; When I was twelve, Dad taught me and Kevin how to hunt. The closet was covered with pictures of C.J. and football and Len Bias. He asked me about my studies, and I told him about the writing. Daddy yelled out in the next room; There was no second guessing: You came or else. Surprisingly, the typewriter was good, Not exactly an Electro Computerized Whiz machine, but dependable. When I told him about the wonders of computers, he seemed embarrassed, and played it off without another word. But the face always told the same story: Nothing was ever enough to please him. I longed for ages to get beyond the man that he was. Later on, I went back outside and saw him working. Only this time the rain was fierce. But he didn' t seem to mind; I just stood there and watched him: So many conflicting, confusing things went on in my head. Occasionally, he'd look my way; All the lies that he had told in the past, all the promises he had broken, didn't seem too much now. I could forgive him for abandoning me. But then, one of his friends said he was taking off, and Daddy suggested I ride with him. I guess the talk will have to wait until another time. Now, whenever people who know my father Tell me I'm a lot like him, I begin to wonder: Am I what I am because of him, Or in spite of him?
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Title Annotation:Section 3: Sayings, Sermons, Tall Tales, and Lies - Contemporary Black Poetry; poem
Author:Kelly, Erren Geraud
Publication:African American Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
Previous Article:Bayou ballad.
Next Article:Mississippi River Poems.

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